5 Ways to Unwind in Uptown Charlotte
Visiting the Queen City for a work trip? Here’s how to make the most of Charlotte’s business district.
by Beth Castle
As the country’s third largest financial district, it’s no surprise that Charlotte’s central neighborhood, Uptown, is often teaming with bankers and business travelers. But don’t let the plethora of button-downs fool you. This is also the city’s main playground. With just as many art museums as dance floors, as many pro sports offerings as live music venues, this bustling, walkable district offers entertainment all day, every day.
1. Take a Culture Break
Many of Charlotte’s celebrated exhibits sit steps from one another—and from the city’s hotels. For starters, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is connected to the Charlotte Convention Center, offers an excellent introduction to racing and its history. (More than 80 percent of racing teams are located in the Charlotte region, so NASCAR is a big deal.) Test your skills on a racing simulator, walk through a hauler or delve into the sport’s moonshine roots.
From there, you can walk to the Levine Center for the Arts, which houses the Mint Museum Uptown, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. In addition to popular permanent exhibits, these museums feature speakers, film festivals and monthly jazz ensembles. A $20 Levine Center for the Arts Pass gets you access to all three—plus the Mint Museum Randolph in the Myers Park neighborhood—for 48 hours, making it easy for you to visit them all at your leisure. While you’re in this area, be sure to snap a photo in front of the Firebird, the mirrored statue located on the Bechler’s plaza. Nicknamed the “Disco Chicken” by locals, the public art piece is an iconic Charlotte landmark.
A few blocks away, at Seventh and College streets, you’ll find the award-winning Levine Museum of the New South, an interactive museum that details Charlotte’s and the South’s growth since the Civil War. With mock houses, farms, shops and churches, hallmark exhibit “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” invites guests to see, hear and, yes, even touch the South through 1,000-plus artifacts, images, video and music clips, and oral histories.
2. Sit Back and Relax
Kick back with a cocktail or a craft brew while local and touring talent steals the spotlight. With multiple theaters, Uptown’s Blumenthal Performing Arts Center stages everything from Broadway hits to outdoor singalongs. You’ll also find music venues—like jazz club The Imperial—throughout Center City. A quick cab ride takes you to entertainment complex AvidXchange Music Factory, which, in addition to multiple bars and a comedy club, houses an amphitheater, a Latin music club and multiple indie, rock and pop music venues.
If you’d rather see live action over live shows, root for one of Charlotte’s home teams. The NBA Charlotte Hornets, NFL Carolina Panthers and Triple-A affiliate Charlotte Knights play at Spectrum Center, Bank of America Stadium and BB&T Ballpark respectively, all of which are located Uptown. Bojangles’ Coliseum, where the AHL Charlotte Checkers skate, is also minutes away, though not walkable. Most of the venues serve local brews or locally inspired eats, so you’re sure to have an authentic Charlotte experience in each of them.
3. Shake It Off
Let loose at nightlife hot spot theEpiCentre, which brings together a piano bar, clubbing and live music dance floors, a bowling alley and a movie theater. This entertainment center also offers a number of restaurants and drink spots if you’re looking for a low-key late-night option.
Uptown also has a collection of Irish bars set up along 5th and Tryon streets. There, Dandelion Market, Connolly’s on Fifth and Rí Rá Charlotte keep the strip rocking into the wee hours. Also on the same street, Roxbury Nightclub plays 90s tunes and serves strong cocktails to clubbing crowds.
Worn out your dancing shoes already? Stroll across the street to Sophia’s Lounge for peace and cocktails in a soft-lit, peaceful space. Named for the city’s namesake, Queen Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the elegant space is a tribute to the beloved royal.
4. Practice Retail Therapy
In Charlotte, shopping and city exploration go hand in hand. At the corner of Tryon Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, pick up Charlotte souvenirs from the Visitor Info Center, which stocks high-end locally made products. Then tromp down to 7th Street Public Market, a mixed-use space with shopping and food, to browse more local vendors. From there, you can take the LYNX Blue Line light rail to the South End neighborhood to shop boutiques off East/West and Bland stations.
5. More to Explore
Speaking of the light rail, you can travel car-free from Uptown to a number of neighborhoods. Visit South End’s craft breweries, explore the artsy NoDa neighborhood, or trek up to University City to check out the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Near the EpiCentre, you can also catch the free Gold Line trolley, which will take you to Elizabeth Avenue, where you can explore the charming bungalows in the Elizabeth neighborhood.